Minutes of Open Meeting

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Date: December 13, 1992

Location: Kennedy Union Ballroom, University of Dayton

Meeting Topic: Dead Sea Scrolls

Facilitators: Professor Ben Zion Wacholder, Hebrew Union College

PRESENT: Jerry & Lorraine Kotler, Cochairs; Nancy Awsumb, P.T. Bapu, Myron Bentle, Sharon Bentle, W.O. Braun, Jane Brill, John Brill, Warren Brim, Larry Briskin, Bert Buby, Elizabeth Burks, Marlene Carne, Steve Coleman, Glenn Duckwall, Phyllis Duckwall, Robert Edwards, Shirley Flacks, Malcolm Gillespie, Charles N. Griffith, Linda Hall, W.T. Hall, Abraham Heller, Edith Holsinger, Jerry Jacobson, Sophie Kahn, Stephen Kahn, Jack Kelley, John Kelly, Mike Kersh, Jane Kimpan, Lou Kimpan, Cynthia King, William King, M. Kling, Annette Landry, Robert Landry, Joan Lanzendorfer, Jonathan Levant, Claire Lieberman, Bill C. Littlejohn, Elizabeth Lloyd, Ken Lotney, Shirley McKee, Faith Magee, John Magee, Carl Maneri, Ray Maras, Bob Mass, Richard A. Mass, Eileen Moorman, Mary Catherine Nolan, Judith O'Connell, Hans Ostreicher, Gary Pacernick, John Petry, Ellen Jane Porter, E. Robert Premo, D. Pryor, Bill Rain, Mary Ellen Rain, Marvin Roden, Sharon M. L. Rogers, Bonnie Rosenzweig, Kenneth Rosenzweig, Harold Rubenstein, Sophie Rubenstein, Fred Scheuer, Jo Taddy, John Turney, Gilbert Unger, Gabriel Vacca, Percy O. Vera, Dieter Walk, Suzie Walk, Murray Weisman, Wilma L. Whorton, Melissa Wilkinson, Rochelle Wynne, Julie A. Young, Eleanor Zwelling, Victor Zwelling.

Jerry Kotler opened the meeting at about 3:30 PM by describing the nature of the Dayton Christian-Jewish Dialogue. He then introduced Prof. Wacholder, relating his illustrious and interesting background (Secretary's note: see the announcement in the November, 1992 minutes).

Prof. Wacholder began his remarks by stating that the Dead Sea Scrolls represented the discovery of a whole new literature from ancient times that we did not formerly know about. The Scrolls will be studied and debated for a long time. The major theme of that debate will be their meaning for Jews, Christians, and culture in general.

The Scrolls include at least 75,000 fragments and 20,000 lines. They were written mostly in Hebrew and Aramaic. The texts provide a new understanding of early Christianity and Jewish history in the period of the Second Temple (i.e., the Judaism that existed prior to the beginning of Christianity). The Dead Sea Scrolls include much more that just findings from Kumran; they also include scrolls found near the Dead Sea at places such as Massada and Ein Gedi.

The first cave containing scrolls was discovered in 1947. A part of the findings from this cave was the Book of Isaiah in its entirety. Twenty percent of the scroll findings from Kumran were parts of the Hebrew Scriptures. Also found were secular literature and intertestamental writings (or sectarian writings).

An important role of the Kumran discoveries is that they verify the antiquity of the Hebrew Scriptures. The Story of the Giants was found at Kumran. These giants survived the flood at the time of Noah and subsequently instituted the evils of medicine, slavery, and cities. Also found was a Hebrew original of the Apocrypha, including Psalm 151 and 3 other psalms. Philosophical writings were also included in the Scrolls from Kumran. These included discussions of the purpose of humanity and the fact that light and darkness in the Creation story were only a metaphysical concept for humans. God sees in darkness as well as in light. These writings also recognized that the Scriptures were not entirely literal.

For Jews, the Dead Sea Scrolls provide material, formerly nonexistent, to reconstruct the historical linkage between the Biblical stories and the Mishna, which was written around 200 C.E. In 1947, Dominican Monks were entrusted with the Scrolls by the Jordanian government. Their primary interest was in determining how much light the Scrolls shed on Christianity. Although there is much controversy about this, Prof. Wacholder stated that the Dominicans did not conspire to manipulate their meaning and interpretation. They did however believe that the people who wrote the texts were predecessors of Christians. Although research access to the Scrolls was strictly controlled previously, since 1990 the texts have been released for scholarship.

People who lived at Kumran did not have a formal name for their group. They were known as the Sons of Zadok, and some believe them to have been the Ascenes described in Roman historical writings of the period.

A group of texts may shed light on the meaning of Christian Scriptures, but there is controversy about this point. Some scholars feel the writers of the texts were actually early Christians. Text 4Q285 includes ten fragments and has 160 lines. It describes what some believe to be Jesus' pedigree. There is also an echo of the story of the passion from three of the gospels, but Prof. Wacholder believes this to be a misreading of the text. Many of the texts do shed light on the interplay of early Christianity and Judaism. A question has been raised as to whether Christian Baptism is derived from the Jewish ritual bath known as the Mikvah. However, the general consensus of scholars is that the Baptism of John the Baptist is something new with little relationship to the Mikvah.

One theme of modern liberal Christian writing is that Judaism was a religion involving legalistic, meaningless ritual while Christianity is a more personal religion in which God is a father and son who loves his creation. The Kumran texts also include references to the fatherhood of God, thereby demonstrating the personal aspect of God in Judaism. Also, the fatherhood of God is cited frequently in the Psalms of the Hebrew Scriptures.

Prof. Wacholder's formal presentation ended at 4:40 PM. Questions followed. One question addressed the Christian concept of "turning the other cheek." Prof. Wacholder replied that the concept of "turning the other cheek" is also found in the Hebrew Scriptures and in the texts found at Kumran. Another question addressed the Documentary Hypothesis. Prof. Wacholder said he does not accept this Hypothesis. Another questioner asked if the knowledge of the historical linkages between Judaism and Christianity gained from the Dead Sea Scrolls will help to span the theological differences between modern Judaism and Christianity. Prof. Wacholder replied that he cannot say at this point. It depends on people's interpretation of the knowledge gained from the Scrolls.

The meeting adjourned at 5:00 PM.

Respectfully submitted,

Kenneth Rosenzweig


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